How to use your air fryer to make tender, perfectly-cooked salmon

How to use your air fryer to make tender, perfectly-cooked salmon

Air fryers are often a shortcut to dinner, but figuring out the cooking formula for certain foods in the appliance can sometimes feel intimidating. I’ve written about this before, when I set out to completely familiarize myself with my new air fryer by cooking at least one meal a day for an entire week. There were some hits, like perfectly-crispy tater tots, and some misses, such as blackened bao. 

These days, I’m not using my air fryer nightly, but one meal that is definitely in the regular rotation is air-fried salmon with pan sauce, rice and vegetables. Using the air fryer, as well as some convenience foods like instant rice, I have a full, flavorful and nourishing dinner on the table in under an hour. 

Related: I committed to cooking one meal a day using my new air fryer — here’s what worked (and what didn’t)

Feel free to use this as a template for making your own riffs on air-fried salmon at home. It’s one of the easiest proteins to make in the air fryer, as it cooks through pretty evenly. If you opt for a cut with skin, you’ll also score a crispy, umami-packed exterior. 

The salmon

In a large bowl, combine 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of bourbon, 1 clove of minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of minced scallions and the zest and juice of one lime. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, then add 1/4 cup of olive oil. Stir again until fully combined. 


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Pour the mixture into a resealable plastic bag or a covered container, then place 1 pound of salmon filets in the marinade to rest. Allow a minimum of 15 minutes, though you can also leave the filets in there overnight if desired. 

When ready to cook, remove the salmon, season it with salt and pepper and place it in the basket of an air fryer that has been preheated to 350 degrees. Cook the salmon for 10 to 12 minutes, flipping halfway. 

The sauce 

That delicious, flavorful marinade is going to double as your sauce. In a small saucepan, pour the remaining marinade and 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally as the sauce thickens for 10 to 12 minutes while the salmon is cooking. 

The rice and vegetables 

To round out the meal, I like to make a few servings of instant rice (which typically takes about 10 minutes to heat and steam, but who’s counting?) and a simple array of thin-sliced raw vegetables, including sugar snap peas, radishes and cucumber

To serve, place the rice in a low bowl, topped with the salmon, sauce and thin-sliced vegetables. For garnish, if you like, you can add another lime wedge and a sprinkle of fresh scallions. 

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